SASKATOON – The two-time defending national champion Trinity Western University Spartans opened the 2017-18 Canada West men's volleyball season with a straight set (25-21, 25-18, 25-21) victory over the University of Saskatchewan Huskies Friday night at the PAC.
Jacob Kern (Edmonton) led the Spartan attack with game-high 14 kills and four digs. Eric Loeppky (Steinbach, Man.) chipped in with nine kills, a team-high six digs, two aces and TWU's only two solo blocks.
Mortenson lead the team with nine kills, while CJ Gavlas provided 26 assists.
The Spartans hit .397 as a team while holding Saskatchewan to .192.
In the first set, the Spartans seemed to trade points two-for-one with the Huskies, as they built their lead. Trinity Western slowly controlled the pace to earn a 25-21 win in the opening set.
In the second set, neither team could seem to pull away from one another. The Huskies saw their first lead at 15-14 courtesy of a Colin Fraser kill. However, the Spartans stormed back to score four straight. The Huskies came close to a comeback, narrowing the lead to 19-17. But the Spartans once again scored four straight for the 25-18 win.
In the final set, the Huskies led 17-15, but the Spartans responded with a 6-1 run. The Huskies clawed back to pull within one. Dylan Mortenson's ace made it 21-20 for the Spartans but that was as close as the Huskies would get. Trinity Western would close the match on a 3-0 run as Jackson Howe (Calgary) earned the final point for the Spartans.
Head Coach Ben Josephson
"It was kind of a weird feeling game. I think there were a lot of nerves. Even though we played really well and we were really efficient, it just never felt comfortable. We had a hard time from the service line and never really got our hot servers going. It just never felt like we had a great flow. It's hard to put a finger on it, but there were just some things that weren't great.
"We're happy to get a good start to the season and a road win in that gym. I thought Jacob Kern was unreal tonight. He was so physical and high. Maddux Greves was lights out serving off the bench. He closed out the second and third sets from the baseline."
• Including their preseason, the Spartans are 14-0 in 2017-18.
• Dating back to last year's playoff run while also including this year's exhibition slate, TWU has won 24 consecutive matches.
• Last year, the Spartans split their series with the Huskies, winning the first game 3-1 before losing 3-0 the following night. That loss to Saskatchewan ended TWU's hopes of a perfect regular season at 11 games.
The teams meet again Saturday night at the PAC. First serve is at 6 p.m.